How to tell if your dog is a supermodel…
Sometimes we don’t see what is right in front of our faces. Yes, even the “cuddliest” of dogs are gorgeous, but they are certainly not happy.
Let’s have an exercise in being responsible puppy parents and review our dog’s weight (and why).
If you’re like me and have a hard time saying no to those begging doggy eyes, it’s time to think about the impact it can have in their musculoskeletal health.
In Marlo’s case, her increased weight is mostly in part to her strict rest following injury and subsequent surgery. I hadn’t adjusted her feeding regime to account for the reduction in her exercise (and she’s a highly energetic little dog).
Over time, I noticed that her waist wasn’t as obvious, and just recently it was getting to be non-existent! So, it got me into action – and thinking it was a great article topic.
Is being overweight and obese really a problem for dogs?
Yes, it is. There is an ever increasing trend of overweight or obese dogs. Like humans, overweight and obese dogs will suffer from medical diseases, have increased risk of injury and potential have a shortened life-span.
Unlike humans, they have no control of their main daily caloric intake and to a large extent their exercise regime.
This is where we need to be our pet’s advocate in promoting their health and life quality.
What are some medical conditions commonly seen in obese animals?
Even dogs that are overweight, but not excessively obese have a much higher incidence of diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Overweight dogs also suffer more from osteoarthritis than their more slender counterparts with the same condition.
Dogs of all shapes and sizes can develop osteoarthritis. The risk of arthritis increases with age and size. Excess weight traumatises the joints more rapidly, increases the speed of arthritic progression and pain levels associated with the disease.
How to know whether your dog is overweight.
At times I feel that we have grown to perceived dogs that are overweight as being of normal body condition. Use these tips below to help identify a health body weight in a dog:
First, forget about the number on the scales.
The number on the scales should only be used once your dog has the ideal body condition (BC) as detailed below. 25kg between any two dogs, even those of the same breed, can be very different in terms of a healthy body condition score (BCS).
Second, put your hands on your dog.
There are three key areas to feel whether your dog has more padding than is needed.
The ribs: By running the flat of your hands along the sides of your dog’s chest. If you can feel the ribs easily without having to apply pressure, your dog is in ideal condition. In general terms, if you need to apply a bit of pressure, then your dog could do with some weight support. If you need to apply a lot of pressure, then obesity is a problem for your dog and needs to be addressed.
The waist: We all long for the hour-glass figure, so why not achieve it in our dogs? To see whether your dog is ideal, overweight or obese, look from above while he or she is standing normally. Between the end of the ribs (you’ll know where this is because you’ve felt them in the step above) and your dogs hips/hind legs, there should be a distinct concave indentation – much like the hour-glass. Where your dog sits on the scale depends on how obvious this indentation is. Hour-glass is perfect. Straight line from ribs to hips is overweight and approaching obese. A convex shape or “saddle-bags” is a clear sign of obesity.
The belly: A dog can have a pot belly, just like us. For dogs, the belly should have a “tuck”. It’s time to put your hands on him again! When your dog is standing normally, feel along the underside of his chest, between the ribs. You’ll be able to feel the breastbone. Now, to see if your dog has the ideal tuck, imaging a straight line from the breastbone to the pelvis. There should be an upward angle. An angle between 30 – 45 degrees (as a rough guide) is ideal. Less of an angle means your dog is more likely to be overweight. A downward angle or an exaggerated paunch tells us that Fido needs to trim down – now.
Click here to see the techniques in action. It’s a short video from the WSAVA Global Nutrition Guidelines. (World Small Animal Veterinary Association).
How is your dog’s body condition?
Well done in taking the time to health check your pet. Whether you’re happy with your findings or not, it is important to make sure that we use this information wisely.
If your dog is ideal:
This is fantastic news! The trick is to maintain it over time. Like ours, dog’s nutritional and exercise needs change over time. Now is the time to ensure that you:
- Weigh your dog now. At an ideal body condition, you’ll have an accurate ideal weight in kilograms to use as a guide.
- Schedule regular intervals to assess your dogs body condition. I suggest that you do this at least twice a year. Try to pic a time that you will remember, for example at Christmas and Easter. If you do notice an increase in condition or weight, increase the frequency.
- Implement a joint support plan now. This will support your dog’s musculoskeletal health as she ages, regardless of her condition.
If your dog is overweight or obese:
I’m glad you are able to identify this now. Intervention now will help stop the issue from worsening and help your dog live a happier, longer life. It is time to review your dog’s dietary intake. A great place to start is a chat with your veterinary team. They can give great advice regardless of whether you prefer commercial foods, raw or home-cooked diets.
Next, ask your vet for an examination of your pet. The presence of arthritis, injury or inflammation in the joints and muscles will influence the type of exercise regime your dog will benefit from. They will also be able to help with medical treatments of these, including supplements.
Finally, work out a plan for your dog. Please, start small. It may seen counter-intuitive, but you may need to reduce your dog’s exercise for at least a little while. The aim is to improve fitness while reducing the risk of injury.
Feel free to research ideas and advice for improving your doggo’s althetic ability, but please, ensure that your information is verified by a qualified, credible source. There are many, too many, sites offering poor or even downright dangerous advice. It’s always recommended to discuss any plans you’ve made with a vet or us here at Canine Remedial Therapy Service.
The best way to work out an exercise plan is to talk with us. We can help with a physical assessment including gait and postural evaluation, massage and active stretches, etc. As part of the service, we can make recommendations to establish a plan that will help build your dogs strength and fitness.
What is the upshot of all this?
Any dog will benefit from a review of his or her weight and lifestyle. Weight loss and weight maintenance is beneficial at any age.
The success of a weight loss and fitness plan lies in a consistent, sensible and safe regime that encompasses nutrition, exercise and supportive/preventative therapies. Regular review ensures that the regime remains effective and goals are reached.
The long term goal is to improve your dog’s quality of life – for today, and all of his tomorrows.